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What is the best roller coaster in America?

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Published: September 20, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Yesterday, we covered the worst roller coasters in America, so let's end the work week on a higher note. According to ratings submitted by our Theme Park Insider readers, here are the top 10 roller coasters in America:

El Toro
The best roller coaster in America?

  1. El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure
  2. Bizarro at Six Flags New England
  3. Maverick at Cedar Point
  4. Intimidator at Carowinds
  5. Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
  6. Manta at SeaWorld Orlando
  7. Millennium Force at Cedar Point
  8. The Voyage at Holiday World
  9. Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure
  10. Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City

Let's keep in mind that the average reader ratings for these great coasters are jammed together as closely as riders waiting in their queues. The difference between numbers one and 10 in terms of quality isn't much at all — you'll enjoy a great ride on any of these coasters, as well as on several more that lurk just underneath the current top 10.

We asked fans of Theme Park Insider on Facebook and on Twitter to name their favorite roller coasters, too. We heard multiple responses for many of the coasters on the top 10 list above, including Millennium Force, El Toro, Bizarro, Voyage, and Apollo's Chariot. In addition, Theme Park Insider fans on Facebook and Twitter frequently lauded:

Let's celebrate another great summer of riding coasters with on-ride videos from some of your favorites:

Later today, we'll keep talking coasters with our Vote of the Week, and tomorrow we will reveal Theme Park Insider readers' picks for the top roller coaster parks in the United States.

Readers' Opinions

From Dave Stroem on September 20, 2013 at 9:01 AM
Not a bad list at all. I have ridden all of these coasters and they are all good. Only one missing is Texas Giant which is my #1 overall.
From 209.190.208.98 on September 20, 2013 at 9:03 AM
YES to Apollo's Chariot! Verbolten makes me laugh, but it can't quite unseat my favorite coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Glorious.
From 199.249.176.74 on September 20, 2013 at 9:34 AM
The best coaster that I've ridden is the Hulk at Islands of Adventure, but I haven't ridden a lot of the top choices. The Voyage is a close second for me.
From Jonah Sirota on September 20, 2013 at 9:37 AM
Since when is Knoebel's not on the park guides/reviews list? Surely this is a park whose influence in the industry extends well beyond its attendance numbers (hard to calculate, also, because the park doesn't charge admission). Anyway, I wanted to vote for the Phoenix, an amazing coaster that has way more ejector airtime thrills than one would imagine possible given its relatively small size.
From Brian Emery on September 20, 2013 at 10:22 AM

BGT - MONTU!!!!!
From Russell Meyer on September 20, 2013 at 11:04 AM
After riding them pretty close together, I cannot understand how Milennium Force outranks Intimidator 305. With the recent reprofiling and the new OTSRs, I-305 blows MF away.

Honestly, I have a hard time picking an absolute best coaster, because each coaster type offers it's own unique experience. El Toro is easily my favorite woodie, while Montu is my favorite invert, Apollo's Chariot is my favorite hyper, I-305 my favorite giga, Manta my favorite flier, and TTD my favorite launcher.

However, if I had to pick one coaster to ride, I'd probably pick one that's got a mix of everything, which would be Maverick.

From Roger S on September 20, 2013 at 11:13 AM
Not bad! Five of my overall top 10 are on here (Mav, MF, Voyage, AC, Intimidator). I haven't ridden the other five yet, but I'm hoping to get to them in the next few years. At first, I was disappointed that my overall #1 Intimidator 305 isn't on here. Then I realized that's a good thing. If I-305 is not TOO popular, that means shorter lines for me!
From Bobbie Butterfield on September 20, 2013 at 11:21 AM
Having ridden only 8 of these, I can't comment on the other two but this is a great list which overlaps to some extent with my own top 10 list. I had long been of the opinion that El Toro was the best coaster in the country although it's now tied with Outlaw Run. One conspicuous omission, as Russell Meyer pointed out, is Intimidator 305, number 3 on my list. As to whether it outranks Millennium Force, there's one guy widely acknowledged as a roller coaster expert who thinks it does but I've given the matter a great deal of thought and think that Millie is just a little better due to the scenery and diversity. I've never been to Carowinds so could someone who's ridden both Intimidator at Carowinds and I-305 at Kings Dominion tell me why the former usually gets a higher rating?

Another coaster I'd really like to see on this list is Boulder Dash, this year's winner of the Golden Ticket award for #1 wooden coaster. This gem is highly deserving of recognition and I'm happy for the staff at Lake Compounce, who were absolutely wonderful on my recent visit.

From O T on September 20, 2013 at 11:52 AM
I really loved Kraken at SeaWorld Orlando. The ride is so smooth and it has a huge looping in it. Sitting on the outside you are far away from the track and it's like you are flying. Also most coasters are getting a bit rough at the end where they still need to push some tight looping's or corkscrews in there but Kraken never gets uncomfortable.

Unfortunately I can't do coasters anymore because there is a very high risk my back or neck will snap. Thankfully I still can do rides like Spiderman at IOA and for me that's better then a coaster. Instead of having the best part in the beginning and watering down in the end this rides kicks off great and only gets better with an amazing ending. The same can be said for Harry Potter. Yes its all virtual but it's very convincing and I love it. So for me that are now the best coasters.

From Tim Odom on September 20, 2013 at 12:24 PM
I am always surprised at how high Bizarro rates. I mean, it is a REALLY good coaster, but is it really the 2nd best coaster out there? Really? I don't see it, though I do love it.

Also, while I know Intimidator and Intimidator 305 were from different companies, I cannot see how 305 is not on this list and Intimidator is. Intimidator 305 is a wonderful (if intentionally violent, my wife grayed out on it post-reprofile) ride, that I think is great. I think I-305 gets hit by people who rode the ride after they added the trims, but before they reprofiled it, which was not a good time for that ride. Personally, having ridden both MF and I-305, I like MF better, but I can see 100% why someone would like I-305 more. It is an exceptionally good coaster.

My personal favorite does not appear on this list (though I have ridden many of those, and yes, those I have ridden are very, very, very good.) But for my money, give me Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa, and I will be happy. I love that ride, to me it is the best B&M invert out there. I could ride that one 100 times and still be looking forward to ride 101. Montu, for me, is perfection.

From Roger S on September 21, 2013 at 9:38 AM
Hi Bobbie - I'll give you my two cents on your question about Intimidator and I-305...
For me, I-305 is my #1 coaster because of its intensity and speed. I love how it's a combination of my #2 and #3 coasters, Millenium Force and Maverick. That intensity appears to turn off some people, though. Common complaints include greying out on the first curve, uncomfortable restraints, and the rapid transitions being too abrupt. Me? I LOVE the intense first curve and the speed through those quick transitions!
I think some prefer Intimidator because it's smoother and has more floater airtime. Floater airtime isn't a big thrill for me, but many people love it, and Intimidator provides good doses of it. Overall, my guess is that many people seem to find Intimidator more "enjoyable" or more "pleasant" than I-305. I think Intimidator is fun, but not overly thrilling. On the other hand, I-305 always takes my breath away, and I love that. Apparently, many people prefer the more "pleasant" experience at Carowinds. But... I could be wrong. That's MY general perception, though.
From 68.4.169.132 on September 21, 2013 at 12:06 AM
montu from busch gradens is the best rollercoaster I have ever ridden. (I've ridden a lot.)
Also Tatsu (sfmm) is a lot better in my opinion than manta.
From 65.27.194.191 on September 21, 2013 at 10:28 AM
The Beast?
From AJ Hummel on September 21, 2013 at 11:45 AM
I've been on 8 out of 10 of the TPI top ten coasters (still need to ride Manta and Outlaw Run) and all 8 of those rank somewhere on my personal top 10 list. El Toro and Voyage are my 1st and 2nd place wooden coasters (respectively). Boulder Dash, Thunderhead, Ravine Flyer II, and Apocalypse the Ride are some of my other favorite wood coasters. As for the steel coasters, my steel top ten is:

1. Bizarro (SFNE)
2. Tatsu
3. Maverick
4. Top Thrill Dragster
5. Nitro
6. Millennium Force
7. Leviathan
8. Intimidator
9. Griffon
10. Apollo's Chariot

I never get how X2 always gets included among the best rides out there. Yes, it is a great ride, but I suspect the high ranking comes more from the uniqueness than the ride itself as that is one of the most punishing coasters I've been on (out of over 250).

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